Int’l lawyers in border controversy case say ICJ ruling ‘reasonable, favorable’

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Two international lawyers representing Guyana’s interest in the ongoing border controversy case have said that the recent ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) was both reasonable and favourable.

The statement from the lawyers was made in direct response to a letter by Guyanese Dr. Bertrand Ramcharan who criticized the ruling, saying that the decision by the ICJ to entertain the border case was reckless.

The Government had also rejected Ramcharran’s statement on the ruling.

“The Government and people of Guyana welcome the World Court’s decision which represents a notable victory for the rule of law internationally and for Guyana,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated.

Guyanese Dr. Bertrand Ramcharan

Dr. Ramcharran is a former United Nations official who once held functional diplomatic status. His criticisms against the ICJ ruling were rebuffed in a letter by Mr. Paul Reichler and Professor Philippe Sands.

“We have read with considerable surprise the article written by Dr Bertrand Ramcharran, in Stabroek News. This is all the more so, having known Dr Ramcharran for many years. He has expertise and experience in many areas, but the practise of the International Court of Justice is not, as far as we are aware, one of them,” Reichler and Sands stated.

The two added that the ruling follows the careful and considered approach of the Court, as reflected in its practise.

“The Court has expressed no view on whether there is or is not a land boundary dispute between Guyana and Venezuela. Rather, it has decided to exercise jurisdiction on the question of whether such a dispute has been subject to a definitive settlement, a question that turns on the validity of the Arbitral Award of 1899,” the statement noted.

It is against this backdrop that the two believe the judgment is reasonable in its approach, and one that is entirely favourable to Guyana.

Dr. Ramcharan was highly critical of the decision by the ICJ’s ruling that it has jurisdiction to hear the validity of the Arbitral Award of October 3, 1899 and the related question of the definitive settlement of the land boundary dispute between Guyana and Venezuela.

According to Ramcharan, on a closer look, there are perplexing features of the decision that warrant serious scrutiny.

“By twelve votes to four, the Court, in paragraph 138 of the Decision `Finds that it has jurisdiction to entertain the Application filed by the Co-operative Republic of Guyana on 29 March 2018 in so far as it concerns the validity of the Arbitral Award of 3 October 1899 and the related question of the definitive settlement of the land boundary dispute between the Co-operative Republic of Guyana and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela’”, Ramcharan stated.

As such, he believes that the ICJ has invented a “land boundary dispute” between the two countries when Guyana has always held hat the land boundary was firmly and finally settled in 1899. What Guyana has been seeking, he said, is a confirmation of the validity of the 1899 decision.

Further, Ramcharan said there was no basis for the ICJ finding that there is a “territorial dispute.” He said at no stage did Guyana ask the ICJ to hold that there is such a dispute. AS a result, he said the ruling was irresponsible and reckless.

But the two attorneys who represented Guyana said “it may be that on carefully re-reading it, Dr. Ramcharan will come to a clearer understanding of what it has actually said.”

“The Court’s decision of 18 December is a historic victory for Guyana. It gives Guyana exactly what it has been seeking since independence in 1966, an opportunity to obtain a final and binding judgment from the world’s highest court on the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award, and the boundary that was fixed in accordance with it, and to confirm Guyana’s exclusive and undisputed sovereignty over the entire Essequibo Region,” the letter added.

For over 50 years, since the signing of the Geneva Agreement in 1966 and pursuant to its procedures, Guyana has been hoping to obtain a final and binding judgment from the Court on the validity of the 1899 Award and the resulting land boundary.

Finally, as a result of its perseverance and diplomatic skill, it obtained from the United Nations Secretary-General, in January 2018, authorization to take the matter to the ICJ.

Two months later, Guyana filed its case with the Court. Venezuela immediately objected, contending that the Court lacked jurisdiction to consider the validity of the 1899 Award or the land boundary.

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